Using Church Records with Directories
You can use city directories to gain access to church records. In most major cities, civil marriage records have existed longer than in rural areas. In Philadelphia, for example, civil marriages have been recorded since 1860, while, in the rest of Pennsylvania, the normal starting date is 1885. Similarly, Pittsburgh records begin in 1875. Since there was little governmental apparatus to record marriages effectively, it was up to the clergyman who performed the service to return the information to the city authorities. In states where marriages were recorded at the county level, large cities benefited from this registration by being included on that level.
Whatever the circumstances under which marriages were recorded, the information given is very similar: the names of the bride and groom, the license date, the marriage date, sometimes names of witnesses, and almost always the name of the clergyman or magistrate who performed the marriage.
According to Philadelphia’s 1900 census, Christian and Sophia Hochwald had been married for thirty-eight years. Christian had lived in Philadelphia before this date, so a check in the marriage registers might determine Sophia Hochwald’s maiden name. The microfilm copy of the Board of Health marriage registers for 1862 was extremely faded but was clear enough to find a possible marriage entry on 3 May 1862. Reverend G. Wiehle performed the marriage, and his address was 531 St. John Street. The Philadelphia city directories showed that this man was the pastor of the Salem German Reformed Church on St. John Street. Now a check in church records can be made for this couple’s marriage, membership, and children’s baptisms. See the sections on telephone and religious directories for information on how to locate such records.
- 1900 U.S. Census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, vol. 167, E.D. 412, sheet 7, line 24, NARA microfilm T623, roll 1461. Available on FHL microfilm 1,241,461.
- Marriage Record of Christian [Hochwald?] and [illegible], 3 May 1862, Philadelphia Board of Health Marriage Registers, 1860–1863, 193. Available on FHL microfilm 978,997.
- McElroy’s Philadelphia City Directory 1862 (Philadelphia: E. C. and J. Biddle, 1862), 862.